SACRAMENTO (CBS 13) – New research links several common over-the-counter common allergy medications, including Benadryl, with dementia in older adults.
“We have to pay attention to this, we definitely have to pay attention to it,” said Dr. Bradley Chipps, Sacramento pulmonologist and allergist.
It’s allergy season and many of us are experiencing those classic symptoms: itching, sneezing and wheezing. But some of the most common remedies are now linked to serious health issues.
“Cognitive dysfunction, brain atrophy or decrease in mental status,” said Dr. Chipps.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that certain medications can increase a person’s risk of dementia. They’re called anticholinergics and they include antihistamines, antipsychotics, anti-vertigo drugs, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal drugs, and muscle relaxants.
“It raises some questions about drugs that are used very commonly in elderly patients,” Dr. Chipps said.
Some are familiar brands like Paxil, Bentyl, Vesicare and Dramamine. The most common is diphenhydramine, commonly known as Benadryl.
“It got a very bad rap in the study,” Dr. Chipps said. “Benadryl I think is a drug that shouldn’t be used period. This just reinforces that for me.”
He agreed with the research, saying Benadryl impairs the mind and causes drowsiness. This study comes just weeks after a different study linked dementia to acid reflux and ulcer medication.
“I think we’re seeing more and more potential central nervous system side effects from commonly used medications and we have to pay attention to this,” he said.
There is good news for allergy sufferers: the study didn’t single out every popular medication.
“The newer antihistamines are much safer: Allegra, Zyrtec, Claritin,” Dr. Chipps said.
While the study focused on older adults, Dr. Chipps said there’s no way to know if there are long-term effects on children who take these medications.
“We have to be very cognizant of using these drugs I think at any age,” he said.